It’s reached the point where if I see an article about startups that uses the term “lifestyle business” I just stop reading.
It’s either a business or it’s not. Product or service? Check. Place to sell it? Check. Cashflow? Check.
It can be a one-person shop, or it can be a massive enterprise. Yes, the scale of these two firms will be different but at their hearts they are doing the same thing: Creating something that people want or need and selling it for money.
They may have other goals as well: supporting their communities, raising awareness of an issue, or inspiring people to be better at something … but they are still businesses.
Some startups aren’t businesses – they book no revenue, and they may not even have a sellable product. That’s fine, because almost all businesses start with an idea or a dream or a need or pure desperation, and it’s up to the founders to make it work. They may even need investment, too – sometimes a lot of it. And that’s fine, too.
When people from the startup world use the term “lifestyle business” to describe real businesses that aren’t pure tech, don’t take VC money, or don’t intend to scale to a billion users, I find it condescending and misguided. Some startups could actually learn a thing or two from the vendor who sells hot dogs in the park, the person who starts up a specialist marketing agency, or the partnership that builds a ceramics factory. They have products or services to sell. They have customers. They book revenue, pay their employees and suppliers, and if they do things right, may even become really successful.
In short, people who run small, non-tech businesses are not hobbyists or dilettantes. They’re entrepreneurs doing real business selling something, often with limited capital and without the glamor or hype. So, the next time you encounter a small business, don’t think “lifestyle business.” Think “real business” and consider what you might learn from them.